22 September 2016

South Africa: Why Does South Africa Celebrate Heritage Day?

Heritage Day is one of South Africa's newer public holidays, declared after the republic became a democracy in 1994. The day was first observed in 1996.

Prior to that, 24 September was commemorated in KwaZulu-Natal as Shaka Day, in honour of the legendary Zulu leader, King Shaka Zulu.

When this day was omitted from the proposed Public Holidays Bill before parliament in 1995, the Inkatha Freedom Party objected.

In the spirit of reconciliation, a compromise was made to create a day on which everyone in the country could celebrate diversity in cultural heritage.

"The day is one of our newly created public holidays and its significance rests in recognising aspects of South African culture which are both tangible and difficult to pin down: creative expression, our historical inheritance, language, the food we eat as well as the land in which we live," said the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology in 1996.

"Within a broader social and political context, the day's events are a powerful agent for promulgating a South African identity, fostering reconciliation and promoting the notion that variety is a national asset as opposed to igniting conflict."

Debate on #HeritageDay: Exploration, Encounter and Exchange in History: Celebrating our living heritage and the rich diversity of our nation pic.twitter.com/rVZi7FlZGg

— Parliament of RSA (@ParliamentofRSA) September 22, 2016

We wish you a happy #HeritageMonth. As we celebrate our heritage let us recognise that our diversity is our strength pic.twitter.com/OF0pNkg9zd

— Min. Nathi Mthethwa (@NathiMthethwaSA) September 1, 2016

South Africa.info reporter

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